Sovereignty of God
God’s administration over man
and know that
I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
Given the level of significance attributed to the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, it was a surprise for me to learn that the word ‘sovereignty’ only occurs a few times in the literal-type English translations. The NASB uses the word most frequently, but even in that translation, only half the verses use it with regards to God.
This tells me that someone coined the phrase ‘sovereignty of God’ to summarize a concept seen in the Scriptures, not that doctrine was developed from a scriptural phrase. It also suggests to me that the meaning of the phrase is arbitrary and dependent on who uses the phrase. It didn’t take me long to check the websites of a couple of well–known men to see how they defined the phrase.
John MacArthur believes and teaches that God’s sovereignty means He “orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything.” In the article I looked at, MacArthur wrote that the implication of God’s sovereignty is that God decides who will be saved.
No doctrine is more despised by the natural mind than the truth that God is absolutely sovereign. Human pride loathes the suggestion that God orders everything, controls everything, rules over everything. The carnal mind, burning with enmity against God, abhors the biblical teaching that nothing comes to pass except according to His eternal decrees. Most of all, the flesh hates the notion that salvation is entirely God’s work. If God chose who would be saved, and if His choice was settled before the foundation of the world, then believers deserve no credit for their salvation. Article by John MacArthur, accessed May 19, 2019
John Piper is a well-known author who gave a slightly different definition (although maybe not contradictory to MacArthur’s definition).
When we say God is sovereign, we mean he is powerful and authoritative to the extent of being able to override all other powers and authorities.
I’m arguing that nothing can thwart or stop God’s purposes. When all is said and done, Job says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). I think that’s just about the best definition of sovereignty in the Bible. Article by John Piper, accessed May 19, 2019
In my opinion, there is a difference in emphasis between the two definitions. MacArthur’s definition implies a greater level of control by God. Piper’s definition speaks of God’s ability to overcome His adversaries, which allows the possibility that God’s adversaries could choose their path. This begins to confirm that the phrase is somewhat arbitrary in meaning.
Rather than try to define ‘sovereignty of God’, I think we need to identify and consider the core issue behind the phrase. It seems to me that behind the debate on God’s sovereignty is the question of how God governs mankind. That God is all-powerful and none can thwart His purposes is unquestioned every believer. But ‘all-powerful’ is not synonymous with ‘all-controlling’. Did God set up creation to operate under His direct control, or did He establish a different style of administration?
In this section of the website, I want to explore how God exercises His authority over mankind by looking at what was revealed in Genesis and early Exodus. The stories of Joseph and Pharaoh are widely regarded as foremost examples of God’s sovereignty in action. But before we dive into those stories, my plan is to explore the earlier chapters in Genesis. Perhaps God reveals key elements of His administration that lead up to the stories of Joseph and Pharaoh. So, let us begin at Genesis 1 and work our way through the book, looking for the development of God’s interaction with man and observe how the relationship between God and man works.
We will explore God’s administration over mankind as revealed in Genesis, starting from the beginning of the book and working towards the story of Joseph.
Current Articles on Sovereignty
God chose the nation of Israel to be His people by the word of a covenant. So why were they outside of the blessings in…
Paul’s tone goes from exuberant joy to heavy heartache and sorrow in just a few verses. Why the big change in mood?
When God forbade Adam from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He warned him of imminent death if he disobeyed.…
In a previous post, we noted how God was the revealer of good and evil to man. Eventually Adam sinned against God – an action…
When God placed man in the garden, He permitted him the freedom to eat of any and every tree with one exception – the tree…
Sovereignty 101 The second part of chapter 2 begins to reveal the dynamics of the relationship between God and man. First, we see in Genesis…